Winfield's hurt neck poses more defensive dilemmas

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 6, 2011 - 11:07 PM

The Vikings are left to plan for Arizona this Sunday with the thought that their 13-year veteran will not be healthy enough to play.

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Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield (right)

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Attention Vikings cornerbacks Chris Cook and Asher Allen: Your responsibilities for Sunday's game with Arizona could heighten significantly.

On Thursday at Winter Park, 13th-year veteran Antoine Winfield missed practice for the second consecutive day, sidelined because of neck stiffness.

Winfield hurt his neck making a tackle in Sunday's game at Kansas City. And there's growing doubt within the organization that he will be healthy enough to play this weekend, especially with the team not wanting to be overaggressive with neck injuries.

Winfield underwent an MRI on his neck Monday, a test that came back negative. "But there is something there creating that stiffness in his neck," head coach Leslie Frazier said after Thursday's practice. "And any time you deal with a neck injury, you're very cautious. He's doing a little bit better. We'll just have to see how he feels [Friday]."

Frazier said the Vikings would evaluate Winfield's recovery on Friday afternoon and see if he could participate in at least some drills. If not, he would likely be stamped with a game-time-decision tag.

If Winfield were unable to play on Sunday, Cook would start at cornerback opposite Cedric Griffin. And Allen would take on a greater role in nickel packages.

Winfield's absence would alter the Vikings' blitz strategy with their standout corner unable to deliver the disruption from the outside that he's become so well-known for.

"That's what Antoine does," defensive coordinator Fred Pagac said. "I have known Antoine for a long time and since high school I have known him to make plays like that. He is not very big, but he is physical. And has great quickness and great football awareness."

Added Frazier: "Antoine's certainly a hard guy to replace. He does so many things for us. Even the play he got injured on, he was making a tackle that a lot of guys in the secondary wouldn't be able to make in our league."

For now, the Vikings are left to plan for Arizona with the thought that Winfield will not be ready to play.

Said Frazier: "Until he feels comfortable enough to say, 'You know what, I'm ready to get out there and try,' nobody is going to urge him to do anything other than what he thinks he's capable of doing."

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